Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Figuring Out the Tab

I have a framed quote in my office that purports to be from Mark Twain.
"Every day a child is born who will change the world,” it reads, “but we don’t know who that child is." My old neighborhood had a pretty good idea which kid wouldn't be growing up to change the world and yet look at me now, right here struggling to change the subject. 

As someone who has spent his adult life mostly on the sidelines with his hands in his pockets, I intend no disrespect nor am I throwing shade at anyone who serves on our Board of Education and/or City Council. You have to have a lot of love for where you live to volunteer for those positions and if you've ever attended presentations and public hearings when budgets get created, you also know that having a thick skin doesn't hurt either. Thank you again for your efforts.

As has been the case for all the years I've followed the process, this was “the toughest budget year we’ve ever had.” Those who have (or have had) children in Norwich Public Schools know the value and understand the cost of public education but everyone with and without children pays those costs. That’s how the world turns. 

But the world we are giving our children is very different from the one we had. I was a Cold War Kid who drilled to duck under his desk and turned away from windows. Now we have Windows on computers in every classroom and more computers in our schools than NASA had for the Space Race. But, we also have more metal detectors and a need for them greater than we should ever have. Each day our schools and teachers struggle to find a balance that’s being constantly defined and redefined.  

Every day our schools are, for many, surrogate parents, offering breakfast and lunch for hungry minds with stomachs to match. And many times, our schools are the venue for before and after school services desperately needed by stressed and distressed families across Norwich many of whom bear little resemblance to the Waltons or Cleavers. No one chose to have any of this happen, but it’s part of the lives we all lead now.

The Industrial Revolution has yielded to the Age of Knowledge where skills and abilities must always be enhanced and expanded or we fall behind as citizens and as a society. And once that happens, you never catch up. The goal of education today is to learn the rules of the game better than anyone else to be able to change the rules.

If we hope to remain the nation that’s the envy of the rest of the world we have to accept that education is not an expense so much as it is an investment. We have to choose better than we have in recent years to maximize the advantages for everyone. If you think education is expensive, wait until you calculate the cost of ignorance.
-bill kenny

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